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Race Report: Protection One 400 at Kansas
By Jan Bazen
The inaugural race at Kansas Speedway ended up being a frustrating one for many drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. After 13 cautions, 12 drivers found themselves out of the race. At least six made their way back onto the track to finish the event.
The frustration started early for Stacy Compton, Casey Atwood, John Andretti, and Ricky Craven as they never even made it through the first lap before finding themselves scattered around the track, victims of one of the day's many crashes. Andretti ended up behind the wall and out of the race, while the others stayed in for further abuse. Further problems for Craven came sooner- rather- than- later when Jimmy Spencer hit him in lap two. But don’t worry, Ricky . . . Jimmy’s not through yet!
In his usual fashion, Buckshot Jones hit the wall in lap eight (whoever he drives for should have lots of money!). while Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace battle for the lead. Wallace took the lead in lap 23 and Jimmy Spencer decided to get out of everyone's way when he grazed the wall in turn 2 on lap 47. Gordon got it back in lap 56, only to lose it to Ricky Rudd in lap 57.
On lap 58, Kurt Busch spins out, but manages to stay out of the wall as he drives the #97 Sharpie Ford through the infield. Yes folks, all this excitement and still 209 laps to go! Not to worry though, there are still plenty of pitfalls ahead! Next wreck, lap 66, Ward Burton gets taken out of the race by Jerry Nadeau. Burton takes his frustration out on Nadeau by throwing his some of his safety pads at his car when he comes around again.
Amazingly, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace manage not to trade paint as the battle for the lead goes on for 10 wreck-free laps before Wallace takes the lead on lap 79. At the same time, Stacy Compton hits the wall and ends up out of contention. The race manages another 56 caution-free laps before Bill Elliott, who led the race early on, blows his engine and ends his day. There was a lot more racing until Johnny Benson's engine expired on lap 181.
The wrecks started again on lap 189 when Michael Waltrip lost it and hit the wall at the same time that Dave Blaney spins out. Blaney manages to regain control of the car and stay on the lead lap. Earnhardt Jr. was the next to fall on lap 227 when he hammered the wall while running in fourth place. Matt Kenseth blows a right front tire in lap 236, also ending up in the wall and out of the race.
In lap 255, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte make contact. Jarrett takes a hard hit into the wall and was later airlifted to Kansas University Medical Center. The next lap, both Jason Leffler and Terry Labonte go into the wall. You might say a lot of people became intimate with the walls at the Kansas Speedway.
With 10 laps to go, the red flag comes out and all cars come to a stop with Jeff Gordon in the lead. The shootout started with six laps to go, and there was some good, clean hard racing between Gordon and rookie Ryan Newman. Rudd, Wallace, Martin, Marlin, Stewart, Harvick, Robert Pressley and Dave Blaney also provided some closing laps excitement as Newman and Gordon ran up front. Ryan Newman gave it his best, but was unable to stop Jeff Gordon from taking the checkered flag for his 6th win of the season. R. Newman finished 2nd for his best Winston Cup finish to date, followed by R. Rudd for 3rd, R. Wallace for 4th, and S. Marlin 5th.
‘Dumb move’ of the race goes to Rusty Wallace who was caught speeding coming off of pit road with less than 40 laps to go, trying to get out ahead of guess who? Ricky Rudd of course. Wallace had led the most laps at 118 up to then and was a strong contender to win the race until the dumb move that put him at the back of the pack, forcing him to race his butt off and avoid wrecks to make it back up for his 4th place finish. Was it really worth it Rusty?
Dale Jarrett, the only one hurt in the many wrecks, is reported to have been released from the hospital yesterday. We're all glad to hear that Jarrett is okay.
This inaugural race at the Kansas Speedway was more like a demolition derby, but it had plenty of exciting racing in the end.
Jan is a RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about Nascar, she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing. She enjoys gardening and reading. Although Jan is new to the sport of Nascar, she was exposed to Nascar from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard Nascar fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views. You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.
2001 Car Guy of Benchfield